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Smoorsnoek recipe: A South African culinary classic

By April 26, 2024FinGlobal

Smoorsnoek recipe: A South African culinary classic

April 26, 2024


Smoorsnoek, known as gesmoorde vis in Afrikaans, stands as a quintessential South African delicacy. This legendary dish perfectly combines the robust flavors of smoked snoek, a fish beloved throughout South Africa, with the warmth of Cape Malay spices and a sweet, tangy tomato sauce. This dish stands at the crossroads of heritage and hospitality, where local ingredients reflect the country’s nature and culture.

South Africa’s favourite fish: Snoek

Snoek fish, a key ingredient in South African cuisine and known for its long, slender body, sharp teeth, and distinctive silver-grey color, is commonly found along Southern Africa’s coastlines. This species has played a crucial role in the country’s history and culture for centuries, including being traded by indigenous tribes. Making a Snoek fish recipe like gesmoorde vis, allows one to delve into this rich cultural heritage.

The Origins of the Smoorsnoek recipe

Smoorsnoek has humble beginnings as a Cape Malay dish that migrated to the broader South African culinary scene. The term ‘Smoorsnoek’ originates from the Afrikaans language, where ‘smoor’ means to braise, and ‘Snoek’ refers to the fish species native to the waters around the Cape of Good Hope. Historically, local fishermen caught snoek in abundance, and smoking the fish became a method of preservation. Over time, this simple yet flavorful way of cooking snoek evolved into a staple snoek fish recipe.

The smoked snoek dish carries the influence of the Cape Malay community, who merged their own cultural cuisines with those of the Dutch colonists. The resulting Cape Malay cuisine is known for its complex, aromatic flavors, which are now synonymous with South African identity.

The traditional Smoorsnoek recipe


  • Approximately 250 grams of flaked, smoked snoek, with bones removed
  • Two onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of sunflower oil
  • Three large, peeled, and chopped tomatoes
  • 4 to 5 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled until soft yet firm, and chopped
  • One full cup of cooked rice
  •  parsley, coriander, salt, and pepper according to taste

Once you have all your ingredients, follow this straightforward recipe:

  1. Begin by preparing your ingredients: boil and chop the potatoes, peel and chop the tomatoes, and have your rice cooked. Make certain that all bones have been removed from the snoek fish.
  2. Sauté the onions until they’re clear and slightly golden. Mix in the tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes, adding a bit of hot water if necessary to prevent sticking.
  3. Next, incorporate the potato and shredded snoek, mixing well, and let it cook for another 10 minutes. Fold in the cooked rice. Adjust the seasoning to taste, and feel free to add a generous amount of fresh parsley and coriander for a non-traditional twist. Serve it hot, complemented by chutney on the side.

Snoek serving suggestions and pairings

Smoorsnoek is itself a complete meal, but it can be complemented by a spread of side dishes and beverages to create a deliciously memorable dining experience. Consider serving it with a garden salad dressed simply with lemon juice and olive oil, a selection of sambals for an extra kick of flavor, and traditional South African ‘roosterkoek’— a type of bread ideally suited for soaking up the Smoorsnoek sauce. For a refreshing accompaniment, pair the meal with the zest of a South African Chenin Blanc.

Bonding over food: Exploring the rich tradition of Smoorsnoek recipes

One of the most remarkable qualities of South African cuisine is its ability to bring people together. The preparation and sharing of a meal like Smoorsnoek are as much about connection as they are about the food itself. By whipping up classic dishes like Smoorsnoek, we’re not just paying tribute to the past, we’re also making new memories and sparking inspiration for future food adventures.

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